What I’ve learned from Bohemian Rhapsody

As I’ve shared here before, I am a huge fan of the band Queen. Freddie Mercury is one of my heroes, and the music of Queen is the soundtrack of my awkward adolescence. So, of course I’d been in a state of nearly unmanageable anticipation of the release of the film about them, Bohemian Rhapsody.  I’ve never been so excited to see a movie before. So, how the heck did I leave the theater feeling so dejected and disappointed after I finally saw it?

I managed to get myself a ticket to an early showing (which may have entailed me driving to Boston) and sat excitedly in the theater as the film started. As the lights lowered, and I heard Brian May’s guitar playing the 20th Century Fox intro, I found myself absolutely giddy.

A little over two hours later; I found myself feeling… Unsettled. Disappointed.  Confused. How could I possibly have felt this way about a movie I’ve been waiting for years to see, a movie about the greatest band of all time?  Two weeks later, what I’ve come to realize is the problem was that I didn’t examine or manage my expectations going into seeing it.

This isn’t to say the film is bad; in fact I think Rami Malek is incredible and should be an Oscar contender for his performance.  It’s just that well, I had unrealistic expectations. Yes, it’s true; even seasoned therapists are prone to having those.

I’ve learned a lot about Queen since becoming a fan in the early 90’s.  A case could easily be made that I know far more about this band than anyone reasonably should.  One of the things I knew about Bohemian Rhapsody was that two of the original members of Queen were the film’s executive producers.  So, going into that early showing, my expectations were that the film would depict Queen’s history with exacting detail.  I’d expected it to be a documentary, rather than a feature film.

Imagine how disturbed I was when a scene depicting the creation of We Will Rock you was set in 1980, with a moustache-clad Freddie Mercury, and not in 1977 when it actually came out, in Freddie’s pre-moustache days.

… Are you still with me so far? Great.  Thanks for indulging me.

So, my point is, my (completely unfounded) expectations, left unchecked, ruined the experience of seeing this film for the first time.  This film that I’d been in anticipation of for nearly a decade, totally tainted by the rules I’d made up in my head about how this film was supposed to be done.  It caused me to overlook some amazing performances, little jokes, and fantastic scenes throughout the film. I’ll admit, it took me a few days to process through it. I felt a little betrayed, and lost as to how I could feel this way about a film I’d so looked forward to.

The lesson here for me, and for you all, is to really check in with yourself about your expectations about experiences and people.  If you find yourself expecting things to go a certain way, take a moment to explore that. Ask yourself questions like “well, how do I know that’ll happen?” “What tells me that’s the situation?” “Am I just filling in some gaps with my mind, making connections that aren’t necessarily based in fact or reason?” “How do I know this person will act this particular way, or say this particular thing?”.  Doing this will give you the chance to explore and better manage your expectations. As I sit here writing this, I can say I wish I’d remembered this before I walked into that movie theatre two weeks ago.

A week after I first saw Bohemian Rhapsody, after I spent some time working through this and getting over myself, I saw it again with some friends. This time I went in with the mindset that I was going to see a film, a fantastic story, with some incredible music.  And it was a COMPLETELY different experience. I totally loved it. Going in without any expectations allowed me to fully experience this film, and it was so so much better. I was able to see and take in the ENTIRE film, rather than being stuck on my points of resentment about what things didn’t really happen until another point in time. Adjusting and managing expectations is definitely the way to go.